Romney and Foreign Policy
The Republican National Convention had foreign policy night last night. Its headliners included John McCain and Condoleezza Rice. Foreign policy is an awkward topic for the Republicans this cycle—because the Obama administration has done pretty well on that front. Most of the world is as happy with us as it’s ever going to be with a global superpower, we’ve generally avoided high profile diplomatic crises, and we’ve navigated a lot of international chaos with unsual finesse. Even the Republican criticisms are either uselessly vague (“More global leadership!”) or absurdly nit-picky (“Don’t respect other traditions with ceremonial bowing”).1 By contrast, the Bush administration’s foreign policy blunders were more dramatic and included things like “don’t send tens of thousands of soldiers into that country without International support or a credible exit strategy,” “don’t torture citizens of other countries at a detention center specifically designed to avoid U.S. law,” and “wait, did you seriously just appoint John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations”? Hillary Clinton has done a fantastic job as Secretary of State. The Obama administration has done great things for our international reputation.
In light of this, it’s interesting who the Republicans trot out to talk about foreign policy. First, they bring out McCain—whose answer to any foreign policy issue is usually, “These bombs aren’t going to drop themselves.” McCain’s foreign policy speech included a couple specifics.
- More military spending.
- More war in Afghanistan.
- Be a bit more dickish to China and Russia to make sure they don’t have much influence on who we invade.
- Do absolutely everything Israel wants us to do.
- We should maybe have invaded Iran.
- We should probably invade Syria. Or at least send a whole lot of weapons there. Because what could possibly go wrong?
In other words, to McCain, foreign policy means having a gigantic military and waiving it around as recklessly as possible.
Rice, on the other hand, has both the experience and the academic credentials to be worth taking seriously, even if you disagree with her. This made her speech particularly interesting. Here’s her speech:
- Freedom is important.
- Free trade is important
- Leadership is important.
- Go team America!
- I trust Ryan and Romney.
- Fracking is a good thing—though we should have some environmental protections.
- Let’s have some comprehensive immigration reform.
- Guys, you all need to stop bashing teachers because education is seriously important for our future. Also, vouchers.
Those aren’t particularly stinging criticisms of the Obama administration—which is interesting. It sounds more like a call to the far right to be a bit less fringy. The whole point of a convention speech is to criticize the other candidate.
It looks like the Republicans trotted out their foreign policy heavyweights. McCain proposed a whole lot of unbridled militarism—which is really not a good idea and emphasizes how much better off we are with Obama. And Rice lobbed a soft-ball that had as many implicit criticisms of the Republicans as it did of Obama. All in all? If foreign policy is your thing, you probably don’t want Romney.
Somebody is going to point out both that the whole drone warfare thing isn’t doing us any favors in the international reputation department and that a lot of the conservative libertarians would stop that. Both are true. But the conservative libertarians aren’t calling the Republicans’ foreign policy shots. Every indication suggests that a Romney administration would be way more trigger happy than the Obama administration. ↩